Mixed reaction in Ottawa to sex-ed rollback

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Mixed reaction in Ottawa to sex-ed rollback

Ottawa parents, students and teachers are keeping a close eye on changes being made to Ontario's sexual-education curriculum.

MPP Lisa Thompson, Ontario's new education minister, said Wednesday that ministry staff are telling school boards to revert to the curriculum that was in place in 2015, before the Liberals introduced controversial revisions.

Recently elected Premier Doug Ford promised to repeal and replace the curriculum when he ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership, and repeated the pledge during the spring election.

The curriculum was particularly controversial among social conservatives.

Mohammed Mutter was at Mooney's Bay Park for a picnic with his four children under the age of 10 and extended family on Wednesday night. He said the Liberal plan introduced information too early in intermediate grades.

"They want to play, they don't want any other information about sex. They will know it sooner or later, at a later stage, for instance high school," he said.

Mutter said he's OK with schools teaching the basics of sex and providing warnings about social media, but that other material can wait.

"They will know about themselves sooner or later, of course, with the help of good family."

'Need to be informed'

Piper Monaghan is heading into Grade 7 in the Catholic school system and she's disappointed the curriculum is being changed in a way that doesn't reflect her experience.

"I have friends who are either bisexual or transgender and it should be good that they know what to do or what's going to happen," she said.

"They need to be informed about what's happening in their life."

The curriculum was last revised in 1998 — before smartphones, social media and legalized same-sex marriage — eight years before Monaghan was born.

'Students at risk,' union says

Elizabeth Kettle, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario's Ottawa branch, said returning to the old curriculum could have serious consequences.

"It's going to be putting students at risk," Kettle said. 

"They're not going to be learning the realities of having to deal ... with cyberbullying, sexting, homophobia, what it means to say no. All those things are really important for our students to learn. And I think to ignore it is really dangerous and, I think, not responsible."

She said her own daughter, who is in Grade 5, has already been asking questions about gender identity and that it's important for schools to discuss those issues.

The ETFO was among the organizations consulted for the Liberal curriculum, along with thousands of parents and dozens of health agencies, Kettle said.

It isn't clear to the public teachers' union how much it will cost to retrain instructors on the old sex-ed curriculum or how they will handle gaps in the material, she added.